Albert Spalding - Centennial CD Issue  (2-MRF-S-01/02)
Item# S0100
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Albert Spalding - Centennial CD Issue  (2-MRF-S-01/02)
S0100. ALBERT SPALDING: Centennial CD Issue: Historic Recordings (Edison, Brunswick & Victor), incl. Handel, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Chopin, Dvorák, Wieniawski, Moskowski, Raff, Ketten, Sarasate, Godard, Massenet, Kreisler, Spalding & Tartini (the latter's Devil's Trill Sonata). 2-MRF-S-01/02. Transfers by Ward Marston; released by the Albert Spalding Historical Society. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! CD #1 only is ever-so-slightly used.


“Albert Spalding (1888-1953) had a busy and successful concert career for the first half of this century, and these CDs do honor to a very accomplished violinist who was imperfectly represented on records. Spalding was born in Chicago to the famous baseball and sporting goods family, and received a thorough musical education, primarily in Italy. As a youth he was championed by the elderly Saint-Saëns; unfortunately he never recorded his mentor's Concerto #3, or the Barber concerto, the 1941 premiere of which Spalding had the noblesse oblige to save when the original soloist begged off due to the difficulties of the last movement. Spalding composed concertos, sonatas, and quartets, but like his friend Kreisler he wrote and transcribed (and recorded) short genre pieces. Indeed, the externals of Spalding's style are in the Kreisler mode: continuous vibrato, freely used portamento, and an unhurried, Olympian approach even to virtuoso music. Spalding had a beautiful tone and a relaxed, highly cultured style; his faster vibrato and more reserved rubato result in a less personal (I almost want to say, less limited) violin sound than Kreisler's: one can imagine Spalding doing nicely with Prokofiev, for example, which you really can't with Kreisler.

Spalding is still revered by record collectors for his splendid 78s of the Spohr Concerto #8 and the Brahms Sonata #2, both for Victor. Others may recall the interesting series of LPs he was coaxed out of retirement to record, a few of which were reissued by Varese Sarabande. Spalding's fame (and his clout with the record industry) never achieved quite the heights of Kreisler, Heifetz, Elman, Szigeti, or Menuhin (who contributes a personal reminiscence to the program booklet), and his prime years were spent recording for Thomas Edison, who unfortunately was stubbornly wedded to salon repertoire. Sarasate and Wieniawski are certainly legitimate violin composers, however, and since prevailing notions of how their music should go were permanently altered by Heifetz and those he influenced, Spalding's recordings offer a valuable “pre-Heifetz“ review of some repertoire that Kreisler only dipped into on disc. His intention seems never to have been to make people gasp with amazement at this or that technical feat, and neither by training nor by inclination was Heifetzian precision among his attributes. To be sure, when the music calls for it (as in Pablo de Sarasate's Introduction and Tarantella) Spalding is dazzlingly clean and biting.

These CDs are taken from Edison, Brunswick, and Victor originals; the only major works, the Tartini and Handel sonatas, are Victors. Generally the Victors sound the best, and the Edisons rather poorly preserve the piano playing of André Benoist, but the warmth and evenness of Spalding's tone production are unfailingly evident. Ward Marsion has done the expected good job with the originals, a few of which were in rough shape. My only real criticism is that to minimize surface noise the original source material is shaved very closely to the music. I think it is also fair to register disappointment with the documentation: catalog numbers but not matrix numbers or recording dates are provided, and both discs share a short program book offering some interesting photographs of the artists but little commentary on the music and the recordings. Those already familiar with Spalding - his playing, his highly eventful life (which includes distinguished military service in both World Wars), and his excellent autobiography, RISE TO FOLLOW [B1426] - will surely be interested in this release, and for them I suppose I've just been preaching to the choir. On their own merits these CDs should attract anyone interested in the violin and the variety of styles employed by its best practitioners."

- David K. Nelson, FANFARE